NEWS | January 28, 2021

Leading oncology organizations issue joint warning

UC Davis joins nationwide effort to urge screenings to prevent cancer tragedies caused by pandemic

(SACRAMENTO)

The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is teaming up with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other leading cancer organizations across the country to urge people to get cancer screenings to prevent tragic outcomes. 

The coalition of 76 organizations has released an open letter reminding the public that cancer still poses a major threat to people’s health and that it is important to act as soon as possible to schedule cancer screenings. The letter examines distressing trends during the COVID-19 pandemic showing a significant drop-off in recommended cancer screening and treatment compared to prior years. 

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) predicts pandemic-related delays in cancer screenings and treatment will result in almost 10,000 excess deaths in the U.S. from breast and colorectal cancer alone over the next 10 years. This estimate does not account for other cancer types and assumes only a six-month disruption in care, suggesting the actual excess deaths could be much higher. Studies have found more than one-third of adults have failed to get recommended cancer screenings during the pandemic. 

“This concerning side effect of the pandemic could lead to a staggering number of preventable cancer deaths over the next ten years and beyond,” said UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Primo “Lucky” Lara, Jr. “As oncology experts, we all agree that people should not delay any necessary prevention or care.” 

UC Davis vaccinated most of its health care workers to ensure a safe environment for people receiving cancer screening and treatment. The confirmed use of evidence-based precautions against COVID-19 should provide reassurance against fears of infection during necessary medical care. 

“When cancer is caught earlier, it is typically easier to treat because there are more options available,” said Robert W. Carlson, CEO, NCCN. “When the pandemic first hit the United States, a short delay in care was an appropriate choice for many cancer types. However, the balance of risk has shifted significantly.” 

The letter points out that researchers around the world have made tremendous strides in controlling cancer in recent years. Leading oncology experts are now asking everyone, in coordination with their health care provider, to resume preventive and prescribed care and contact their doctor right away about any new symptoms or concerns. 

“It is of the utmost importance that critical cancer screenings resume as soon as safely possible,” said William G. Cance, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of the American Cancer Society. “Over the past decade we have seen overall cancer mortality rates drop dramatically. This decline is in large part due to screening’s ability to catch cancers before they spread—when the chances of good outcomes are most likely. We have come too far in our fight against cancer to allow long breaks in vital screening to slow down our progress in saving lives.”


UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 10,000 adults and children every year, and access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 280 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Community Outreach and Education program addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the Center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis partners with hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California communities to offer patients expert care close to home.  For more information, visit cancer.ucdavis.edu.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a not-for-profit alliance of leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, effective, efficient, and accessible cancer care so patients can live better lives. Visit NCCN.org for more information on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) and other initiatives. Follow NCCN on Facebook @NCCNorg, Instagram @NCCNorg and Twitter @NCCN

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 1.5 million volunteers dedicated to saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the fight for a world without cancer. From breakthrough research, to free lodging near treatment, a 24/7/365 live helpline, free rides to treatment, and convening powerful activists to create awareness and impact, the Society is the only organization attacking cancer from every angle. For more information go to www.cancer.org.